More than 300 Children Have Found ‘Forever Families’ During Baylor Law School’s Adoption Days
- Parents Annelise and Justin Hardegree celebrate the adoption of their 2-year-old son Nathan during Baylor Law's annual Adoption Day in November. (Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law)
- The Hon. Nikki Mundkowsky, associate judge of the Centex Child Protection Court North in Waco, celebrates with Karen and Kyle Melton and their family following the adoption of the Meltons' 10-year-old daughter during Baylor Law’s annual Adoption Day in November. (Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law)
- An excited family celebrates during Baylor Law's annual Adoption Day.(Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law)
- A scene from Baylor Law's annual Adoption Day in November. The theme was based on Disney's "The Incredibles." (Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law)
- A Baylor Law student dressed as a character from Disney's "The Incredibles" entertains a child during the Law School's annual Adoption Day. (Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law)
- Baylor Law faculty, staff and students dressed as characters from Disney's "The Incredibles" and turned the Law School into a superhero-themed wonderland for the annual Adoption Day in November. (Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law)
by Cacey Vigil, student news writer
WACO, Texas (Feb. 4, 2020) - It doesn’t take a cape and a mask to be a hero – it takes a big heart and a lot of love. This was the message Baylor Law Professor Bridget Fuselier had for members of the 20 foster families who adopted children into their forever homes during Baylor Law’s Adoption Day in November.
The theme for the event, hosted just before Thanksgiving, was “Adoptions Are Incredible,” and drove Baylor Law faculty, staff and students to transform – quite literally – the first floor of the School’s Umphrey Law Center into a wonderland inspired by Disney’s animated film “The Incredibles.”
The annual Adoption Day is a labor of love for the Law School and its partner, the McLennan County Department of Families and Child Protective Services. Since launching its first Adoption Day 12 years ago, the Law School has seen more than 300 children adopted into nearly 200 families. In November, adoptions were finalized for 23 children who were welcomed into the homes of 20 families.
“You opened your hearts and your homes to children who needed a place to flourish and grow and have a wonderful life that was unimaginable before,” Fuselier said to families before they began finalizing adoptions. “You guys are the biggest heroes of the day, and we celebrate you.”
Fuselier knew the need for adoption in Texas and created the annual event in 2008. The professor had experienced the joy of Adoption Day during her practice as an attorney in Jefferson County, where she volunteered to handle an adoption for a family pro bono each year. She said she saw how giving a small amount of her time had such a profound impact on a family and fell in love with the program.
Adoption is a beautiful way to provide a life for a child, and foster parents are needed every day, Fuselier said, adding that the statistics about how many children are in foster care in need of a permanent home are shocking.
As of September 2019, there were 3,199 children in Texas in foster care and in need of a permanent home. In the United States, more than 437,000 children are in foster care and more than 125,000 are eligible for adoption, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Called to adopt
Karen Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies at Baylor University, was among the parents welcoming a child into their family.
Melton said she had known for a long time that adoption was going to be part of her story as she felt it was part of her Christian calling. And when she met her husband, he also felt called by the Lord to adopt. They both knew that was how they would grow their family.
“We knew that there was a need for children to have forever homes,” Melton said. “We knew that we were able to provide a stable home for a child where they could thrive and have the opportunity to grow up and become a young adult who is able to do well.”
Melton and her husband want to guide their daughters, teach them how to make wise decisions and ultimately set them up for whatever the Lord calls them to do.
“It’s never easy when you answer the call, but we have grown so much not only in how to be parents but in our spiritual walk with the Lord,” Melton said.
Another couple who welcomed children into their forever home was Victoria and Nathaniel Siegel.
They wanted to be parents for a long time, so they decided to look into foster care and knew adoption was the path for them, Victoria Siegel said.
“It’s been great. It made us a mommy and a daddy. We got to meet these two kiddos and now we get to live life with them,” Victoria Siegel said.
Following the adoption, the Siegels were excited to introduce their two sons to their extended family and relatives they had yet to meet. But they were really looking forward to their family trip to Disneyland, Victoria Siegel said.
Other parents who welcomed a child into their forever family were Tracy Hendricks and her husband. The couple welcomed their 1-year-old daughter into their family and have adopted seven kids in total, most who have been kinship placements.
“They needed someone to take them in, and I wasn’t going to let them go somewhere else,” Hendricks said. “It doesn’t feel like we are foster parents, it just feels like we have kids.”
Hendricks said she hopes to provide her children with everything they need. Whether it’s cheering them on as they graduate high school or being the crazy mom cheering from the stands at sports games, it’s all about providing her kids with the foundation they need to be successful.
“You don’t have to be the perfect family, you just have to be the family,” Hendricks said. "All they’re looking for is someone to love them, take care of them and be there for them.”
Perfection not required
For people looking into adoption, the first step can seem overwhelming.
Melton said her family attended adoption interest meetings hosted by Baylor University. Those meetings helped them understand which Waco resources were most appropriate for the adoption route they were looking to take.
“Go to interest meetings, talk to other adoptive families and understand it,” Melton said. “It’s not an easy road, but it’s the right road – it’s meaningful and it’s rewarding.”
For those who are nervous about not measuring up and being a perfect parent, it’s important to know perfection is not the goal.
“We want to provide them with unconditional love. We want them to know we are always going to be there for them, no matter what goes on in their life or what choices they make,” Melton said.
For more information about Adoption Day, visit the Baylor Law website.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT BAYLOR LAW
Established in 1857, Baylor University School of Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Accredited by the American Bar Association and a member of the Association of American Law Schools, Baylor Law has more than 7,500 living alumni and a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School includes among its notable alumni two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature. U.S. News & World Report ranks Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program at No. 2 nationally, while the Law School is ranked No. 48 overall in the magazine’s 2020 edition of Best Graduate Schools. The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the Best Schools for Practical Training and in the top 15 Best Law School Facilities in the country. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. In 2015, Baylor Law received the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award’s inception in 1984. Learn more at baylor.edu/law.